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Nontraditional student hopes to make a change with her degree

Cat Valluzzo smiling at the camera

ASU Online student Cat Valluzzo is graduating with a bachelor's degree in African and African American studies from the School of Social Transformation.

April 22, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

A mother of six grown children and a handful of grandchildren, Cat Valluzzo is not your traditional student at Arizona State University. She gave her children the opportunity to complete their education before she decided to go back to school for herself.

“Going back to school to earn my degree was not easy, yet it is the greatest achievement for me because I love education,” Valluzzo said. 

Valluzzo is an ASU Online student graduating with a bachelor's degree in African and African American studies from the School of Social Transformation. 

“Cat was an extremely motivated student,” said T. Chester, an instructor of African and African American studies. “She pushed herself to learn more about members of the Black community she was unfamiliar with. Her discussion posts were reflective and at times critical of her background. She wrote a letter towards the end of the semester to one of her friends challenging them on their transphobia and homophobia, and in her final project, she researched Ma Rainey (an early American blues singer and artist) and wrote a play based on her life. Her curiosity about learning paired with her life experience demonstrates the gift of nontraditional students.”

Valluzzo said she greatly enjoyed her time at ASU and hopes to inspire other nontraditional students to “be anything you want to be.” 

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My background is allied health, and so when I went back to school, I intended to study health care. As I went through the courses that ASU offered, I found myself going back to reading about African and African American studies. And then with the turmoil that the country and the world was thrown into after the killing of George Floyd, I realized that as someone of African descent, who had moved to America, I knew very little about the history of the African American community and people. During one of my classes was when my "aha" moment happened. Eradicating racial and gender injustices in our society is something that is dear to my heart, and I hope to someday contribute to righting this wrong through working with disadvantaged and marginalized groups. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I love ASU! When I was looking to go back to school, other schools made it so difficult for me, even at the initial stages of inquiry. When I contacted ASU, everything went smoothly from the moment someone got in touch with me. I also appreciate the constant help I get from my academic advisors, success coaches and the various sources of help that was given me. I am proud to be an alumni!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: This may sound like a cliche, but you're not too old to learn something new. Don't give up on yourself and your dreams, and others will not.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I intend to pursue my master's degree in colonial and postcolonialism. It is my hope to teach African and African American studies at the college level.

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